Are you ready to take your garden expertise to a new level and enjoy a year-round abundance of fresh, nutrient-packed greens? Enter the world of hydroponic gardening, which continues to gain significant attention due to its rapid growth, vibrant flavours, and increasing demand for sustainable farming.
In fact, experts project that the global hydroponics market will reach $17.9 billion by 2026. This innovative method allows you to grow plants without soil, using water and nutrient-rich solutions instead.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore growing hydroponic arugula from choosing the right system to maximizing yields. Get ready to experience the joy of homegrown arugula, regardless of the season. But first, do you know what arugula is?
What is Arugula?
Arugula is also known as rocket or salad rocket. It is a leafy green vegetable from the Brassica family. It has a distinctive peppery and slightly bitter flavour adding a unique zing to salads, sandwiches, and various culinary dishes.
Arugula leaves are delicate, dark green and have profoundly lobed or serrated edges. Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and other essential nutrients, arugula is delicious and offers numerous health benefits. This versatile and nutritious green has gained popularity in various cuisines worldwide and is a favourite among home cooks and professional chefs.
How to Grow Arugula in a Hydroponic System: A Step-by-Step Guide
Growing arugula in a hydroponic system is relatively easy and requires minimal space. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:
- Choose your hydroponic system: There are several types of hydroponic systems available, including deep water culture, nutrient film technique, and drip irrigation.
- Set up your system: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions once you’ve chosen your hydroponic system. You’ll need to add water and nutrients to the system before planting the arugula seeds.
- Plant the seeds: Arugula seedlings should be planted about ¼ inch deep. Sprinkle arugula seeds evenly about 1 inch apart. Be sure to label each arugula seedling to help keep track of them as they grow.
- Check the pH level: Arugula prefers a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. It’s best to use a pH meter to closely monitor the pH level of the water in your hydroponic system and adjust it as needed.
- Monitor nutrient levels: Arugula requires a specific balance of nutrients to grow properly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when adding nutrients to the water.
- Harvest the arugula: Arugula typically takes around 35-40 days to reach maturity. You can harvest the leaves individually or cut the entire plant at once.
How to Choose Your System for Growing Arugula Hydroponically
When choosing a hydroponic system for growing arugula, several options exist. Each system has its unique advantages, so it’s essential to take some factors into account:
- Space availability: Evaluate the size and layout of your growing area to determine which hydroponic system will fit best. Consider vertical space if you have a limited floor area.
- Budget: Different hydroponic systems have varying setup, equipment, and maintenance costs. Determine your budget and choose a system that aligns with your financial resources.
- Water and nutrient circulation: Ensure the chosen system provides adequate water circulation and nutrient delivery to the arugula plants. Proper circulation ensures the roots receive oxygen, nutrients, and hydration.
- Maintenance and access: Consider the ease of maintenance and access to the plants for tasks such as pruning, harvesting, and monitoring. Some systems may require more hands-on attention than others.
- Scalability: If you plan to expand your hydroponic operation in the future, choose a system that offers scalability and can accommodate a larger number of arugula plants.
- Personal preferences and experience: Consider your level of expertise and preference for hands-on involvement in the hydroponic process. Some systems may be more suitable for beginners, while others require more advanced knowledge.
Examples of hydroponics systems include:
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This hydroponic system is known for its simplicity and space efficiency. In an NFT system, a thin film of nutrient-rich water continuously flows over the roots of the plants. This method conserves water and allows for efficient nutrient absorption. It is particularly suitable for small-scale or home setups with limited space.
- Deep Water Culture (DWC) system
In this system, you submerge the roots of the arugula plants in a nutrient solution. Oxygen is supplied through the use of air stones or diffusers, ensuring that the roots receive ample oxygen for healthy growth. The DWC system provides excellent support and water circulation, allowing the plants to thrive.
- Drip System
A system where nutrient solution is dripped onto the roots of the arugula plants through small tubes or emitters, ensuring precise and controlled delivery of nutrients.
- Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) System
This system periodically floods the root zone with nutrient solution and then drains it away, providing a balanced and oxygenated environment for arugula growth.
You suspend the arugula roots in the air and spray a fine mist or aerosol of the nutrient solution onto the roots, allowing for efficient nutrient uptake and oxygenation.
Hydroponic Arugula Growth and Care:
Creating an optimal growing environment for your hydroponic arugula is essential for success. Arugula thrives in temperatures between 60°F and 70°F (15°C and 21°C), so maintain a suitable temperature range in your growing area.
Additionally, ensure your plants receive sufficient light by placing them near a south-facing window or using artificial grow lights. Proper ventilation and humidity control are also crucial for preventing mold and diseases.
Arugula Hydroponics pH Levels :
Maintaining the correct pH level is vital for nutrient absorption and overall plant health. Regularly monitor the pH level of your hydroponic solution, aiming for a range of 6.0 to 6.5.
Adjust the pH using pH-up or pH-down solutions as needed. This ensures that your arugula can efficiently take up essential nutrients and thrive.
Nutrient Solution and Arugula Hydroponics ppm (Parts Per Million):
In hydroponics, the nutrient solution serves as the lifeblood of your plants. Invest in a balanced, high-quality nutrient solution formulated for leafy greens like arugula.
Monitor the electrical conductivity (EC) or parts per million (PPM) of the nutrient solution to ensure it stays within the optimal range for arugula growth. Adjust the nutrient concentration as needed to provide your plants with the perfect blend of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Watering and Irrigation
Hydroponic systems require careful management of water and irrigation. Overwatering your arugula seeds can lead to root rot, while underwatering can stunt growth. Monitor the moisture levels in your growing medium or system, and water your arugula accordingly.
Some hydroponic systems, like the NFT system, rely on a thin film of nutrient-rich water flowing over the plant roots. Ensure a continuous and gentle water flow to provide ample hydration to your arugula plants.
Other systems, such as the DWC system, maintain the water level at the appropriate height to submerge the roots but not drown them. Often check the water levels and adjust as needed to maintain optimal moisture.
Managing Pests and Diseases
Even in a controlled hydroponic environment, pests and diseases can still pose a threat to your arugula plants. Stay vigilant and regularly inspect your plants for any signs of infestation or disease.
The common pests to watch out for include aphids, fungus gnats, and spider mites. If detected, consider using organic pest control methods or introducing beneficial insects to keep these pests at bay.
If you’re growing arugula outdoors, consider using garden fabric to protect the plants from pests and extreme weather. Also, maintain your hydroponic system’s cleanliness to minimize the risk of disease outbreaks.
How Many Plants Should You Plant?
The number of arugula plants you should plant depends on the following;
- Size of your hydroponic system
- How much arugula you want to harvest
Generally, you should plant around 4-6 plants per square foot of growing space.
It’s also important to consider the growth rate of arugula when deciding how many plants to plant. Arugula is a fast-growing plant that can reach maturity in as little as 35-40 days. This means you can plant multiple batches of arugula throughout the growing season to ensure a continuous harvest.
When planting arugula in a hydroponic system, giving each plant enough space to grow is essential. Overcrowding can lead to stunted growth and poor yields. Ensure that you closely monitor the growth of your arugula plants and adjust the number of plants as needed.
By planting the right number of arugula plants, you will have plenty of harvest of fresh, flavorful greens that are perfect for salads, sandwiches, and a variety of other dishes.
Harvesting and Utilizing Hydroponic Arugula:
As your hydroponic arugula plants flourish, you will reap the rewards of your hard work farming and enjoy the flavours of this nutritious green. Here are some tips for harvesting and utilizing hydroponic arugula:
Harvesting Time and Techniques
Harvesting arugula is an exciting time for a farmer. Arugula leaves are typically ready for harvest within 4 to 6 weeks after planting. Harvest the outer leaves first, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing.
Utilize a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or garden shears to cut the leaves close to the base. Ensure you always leave a few inches of the plant intact. This allows for regrowth and multiple harvests from the same plant.
Storing and Preserving Arugula:
To preserve the freshness and crispness of your harvested arugula, wash the leaves gently and pat them dry. Store the leaves in a breathable container lined with a paper towel or a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Properly stored arugula can last up to a week, retaining its flavour and nutritional value.
Culinary Uses and Recipes:
The versatile peppery and slightly bitter flavour of arugula lends itself well to various dishes. Add a handful of hydroponic arugula leaves to salads, sandwiches, or wraps for a refreshing crunch. You can use it for pizza topping or blend into pesto for a vibrant twist. Experiment with arugula in your favourite recipes to elevate their taste and nutritional profile.
Advantages of Growing Hydroponic Arugula
There are several advantages to growing arugula hydroponically, including:
- Space efficiency: Hydroponic systems occupy less space than traditional vegetable gardens, making them ideal for small spaces such as apartments or balconies.
- Water efficiency: Hydroponic systems offer water efficiency, utilizing less water compared to traditional farming methods. This water-saving characteristic makes them environmentally friendly and cost-effective options for cultivation.
- Faster growth: Arugula grows faster in hydroponic systems than in soil, allowing you to enjoy a bountiful harvest in less time.
- Year-round growing: Hydroponic systems allow you to grow arugula year-round, regardless of the season or weather conditions.
- Fewer pests and diseases: Hydroponic systems are less susceptible to pests and diseases than traditional gardening methods, reducing the need for pesticides and other chemicals.
Nutritional Benefits of Eating Arugula
Arugula is a nutrient-dense green that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s particularly high in both vitamins A and K, essential for maintaining healthy vision and strong bones.
Arugula is a valuable source of antioxidants, aiding in protecting your body against the detrimental effects of free radicals. Additionally, arugula has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in your body.
Integrating arugula into your diet is an excellent strategy to enhance overall health and well-being. Add it to salads, sandwiches, or pasta dishes for a flavorful and nutritious boost.
Symptoms of Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Hydroponic Arugula
While growing arugula hydroponically is relatively easy, monitoring the plants for common nutrient deficiencies is still essential. Some symptoms to watch out for:
- Nitrogen Deficiency: Yellowing of older leaves, stunted growth, and overall reduced vigor.
- Phosphorus Deficiency: Purplish or reddish discolouration of leaves, poor root development, and reduced flowering.
- Potassium Deficiency: Yellowing and browning of leaf edges, weak stems, and decreased fruit or seed production.
- Calcium Deficiency: Leaf tip burn, necrosis, and distorted new growth.
- Magnesium Deficiency: Interveinal yellowing, especially in older leaves, and leaf curling.
- Iron Deficiency: Yellowing between veins while veins remain green, known as interveinal chlorosis.
- Zinc Deficiency: Reduced leaf size, distorted growth, and chlorotic or mottled leaves.
Embarking on the journey of growing arugula hydroponically is enjoyable and rewarding, as it allows you to savour fresh and flavorful greens throughout the year.
By adhering to the tips and techniques in this comprehensive guide, you can confidently cultivate your thriving arugula in a hydroponic system and relish its numerous benefits. Give it a try today to elevate your gardening experience to new heights.
Yes, arugula can regrow after harvesting. Cutting the plant’s outer leaves allows the inner leaves to continue growing. This practice is known as “cut and come again.” Proper care and maintenance allow your arugula plants to provide multiple harvests over time.
Yes, arugula thrives in hydroponics due to its rapid growth and shallow root system. Hydroponic cultivation provides precise control over water, nutrients, and growing conditions, resulting in healthy plants. This minimizes the risk of diseases and pests and allows year-round cultivation. With hydroponics, arugula can be grown efficiently, ensuring a constant supply of flavorful and nutritious greens.